Can Birds Pick Up Their Babies? (Surprising Answer!)


We’ve definitely seen some animals pick up their babies, but what about birds? Can they pick up their fallen baby chicks, even with their small beaks? I wondered about all these questions myself and decided to do some quick research online for an answer! Here’s what I found:

Most birds won’t be able to pick up their babies because they simply do not have the muscular strength to do so. Most birds have relatively weak beaks and claws and will not be able to lift up any nestlings or fledglings from the ground. Only storks are strong enough to pick up their babies to throw them out.

Now you know the answer to the question, but there are still some exceptions to the case – so stick around as I explain more case scenarios of birds and their response to fallen babies in this article! Read on!

Can Birds Pick Up Their Babies?

Photo Credit: Kevin T. Karlson photography

Most birds won’t be able to pick up their babies because they simply do not have the muscular strength to do so. Most birds have relatively weak beaks and claws and will not be able to lift up any nestlings or fledglings from the ground. If you’ve spotted a baby bird on the ground, then it is unlikely that their mother bird will pick them up again.

The response that parent birds have towards fallen baby birds will vary: Some will view any fallen baby birds as ‘weak’, leaving them behind. However, there have been other cases when people have seen birds flying around their fallen baby bird and will take a longer time to fret over it.

Unfortunately, the natural world is a harsh place where only the strongest survive. In fact, only 56% of baby birds survive in their nests. If you want to, you can read an article I wrote on this here.

According to an article by experts, there have been recordings and reports of waterfowls, willets, rails, woodcocks, chachalacas, and cuckoos where birds carry their young while in the air. However, this evidence is still anecdotal and yet to be confirmed by scientists! Sounds like elusive stuff.

Instances When Birds Actually Pick Up Their Baby Birds

Now, this might break your heart to hear: some birds pick up their babies only to throw them out of the nest. Yes, you heard that right. They do so to remove competition and sibling rivalry within the nest. Examples of such birds that do so are White Storks.

White Storks are large birds that lay multiple eggs that once. When the baby birds grow older, the parent birds spend too much effort to feed so many of them, and have to take out the weakest link in some cases. Unfortunately, for the weakest or youngest of the lot, nature can be really cruel sometimes.

Here’s a YouTube video of it happening in action. Look at the 0:30 mark:

In some less savage cases, mother birds sometimes face the unforeseen circumstance when a baby chick dies while it is still a nestling or died upon hatching.

In the below video, a falcon picks up its deceased baby bird to throw it out. A sad but necessary act, in order to keep the nest from diseases:

Birds That Can Pick Up Their Babies On Their Back

On a much lighter note, although most birds cannot pick babies up using their beaks or claws, some can still carry their baby birds on their back while swimming! There have been instances where some people have seen Swans and American Coots do so.

However, these cygnets (swan chicks) need to be able to climb and jump onto the mother’s back in order to be carried. The chicks will then need to hold on to their parent’s feathers to prevent themselves from falling over. It’s really a cute sight, have a look below.

Here’s an example from a YouTube video that I found:

Pretty cool isn’t it? It’s definitely amazing how dedicated these birds are to carry their young on their back/under her wings. One thing to note is that this behavior is not just confined to swans. It seems that most birds with this behavior are those that live in the wetlands or water and fly infrequently. Examples of other birds that do this are ducks, coots, loons, and grebes!

Final Thoughts

While most birds cannot pick their babies up, there are some birds that actually can, such as stork which pick their weakest chick to kill them and falcons that remove their deceased baby birds. There are also birds that pick up their babies on their back such as aquatic birds like the coots, grebes, swans, and loons. I hope you have your question answered and thanks for reading. Happy birding!

Justin

Justin is a hobbyist birder that hopes to share his birding knowledge with the world. His favorite bird is the Large-tailed Nightjar and he really loves potato chips!

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